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tv   [untitled]    April 11, 2012 11:00pm-11:30pm EDT

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dimension to his leadership. on the disraeli point, i had this experience. i went to the dedication of the nixon library, and he was there. and two things were -- sort of struck me going through there. first, i went through the receiving line and bob halderman was just in front of me. and halderman got up to see nixon and nixon didn't recognize him. they hadn't seen each other in such a long time. they literally -- and he literally didn't catch who he was. bob halderman had been central to his presidency. but the other thing was, when i got up, i was sort of toward the end of the line, and nixon said, come on. i want to show you some of the library. we walked around together. and what was really striking was, he said, i want you to see this part of the library first. we walked through the domestic side of the library. i want you to know my domestic presidency was as important to
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me as my foreign policy. we never thought that when he was president. he used to be -- make disparaging remarks about being a domestic president. the real issues were in the foreign policy side. of course, he devoted most of his time. but he was very proud of the domestic legacy and wanted to talk about the war on cancer and what he'd done in health care and his efforts on the environment and, you know, he brought us the epa. he'd lost on health care, of course. he'd lost on welfare. some of the welfare reform. but one of the reasons that i remain more of a nixon fan than many others is because i did think he was the last moderate to liberal republican domestic president. i did respect what -- some of my colleagues of that day had became more conservative after they left the white house. i found myself especially after i left the reagan white house,
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but i became more of a journalist and had a chance to see what was going on around the country. but i went left on domestic policy. i became much more -- i'm still a hawk on foreign policy and believe strongly in that, but i am -- i happen to believe in free trade, and i believe you are in favor of globalization, in favor of free trade, you have to be in favor of a high safety net for people who get chopped up in this system. if you're going to have a highly competitive system, it's really, really important to have a system that's caring about the folks who are not making it. and i -- you know, the lincoln part of the legacy in the republican party is very important to me. the civil rights part of it. part of, you know, nixon -- there were more children who started going to integrated schools in the south where i am from under richard nixon than any other president. a lot happened on the positive way. and i relate very much to that part of his legacy. i think it was important. i am glad, and there were a lot
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of moderates who came out of that. there were a lot of very good people who work for richard nixon. richard nixon had a dark side but also had a real eye for good talent on the bright side and he brought a huge number of good people into public service who went on to serve with distinction in the ford administration. many of them wanted to work for richard nixon and a great many went on to work for george w. bush. but they went on and did very good things in life. we didn't turn into -- and so a lot of those associates i'm very proud of. but i thought nixon left a legacy that republicans should be proud of. i believe that environmental protection was positive. i think his ideas on health care, trying get universal coverage are right. i happen to be more for a private system than some of the democrats. but he is -- i think there is much there that in that legacy that people can look back upon and say deeply tragic, flawed
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president did enormous damage to the presidency but let's remember the whole of richard nixon and who he was. >> which is what president clinton said. >> yeah. >> and perhaps now we know who helped inspire that. i'm not sure if -- i don't know if you hadn't been on that plane with him, whether the president would have said it. >> we talked about it a lot going out on the plane. it was the right epithet for richard nixon. >> david gergen, thank you for your time today. >> thank you, tim. it was a pleasure and a privilege to be here. >> former president bill clinton and white house senior adviser valerie jarrett speak thursday at the annual conference of the u.s. export/import bank. participants gather here in washington to discuss how the u.s. can bolster american exports. during his first year in office, president obama set a goal of doubling exports over five years.
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you can see the event live thursday at 8:45 a.m. eastern here on c-span3. and as congress continues its two-week recess, all this week we're showing you american history tv programming in primetime. tomorrow, programs from the civil war navy conference as it marks its 150th anniversary of the battle of hampton roads. that event was the first time in history that iron clad ships faced off in battle. see those events tomorrow beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span3. april 15th, 1912, nearly 1500 perish on the ship called unsinkable. >> once the lookout bells were sounded, the lookout, once the lookout sighted an iceberg ahead, they struck the bells in the crow's nest three times, ding, ding, ding, which is a warning saying that there's some object ahead.
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doesn't mean dead head ahead. and it doesn't say what kind of object. what the lookout then did after they struck the bell. he went to a telephone in the nest and called down to the officer on he bridge to tell them what it is that they saw. and when the phone was finally answered, the entire conversation was what do you see? and the response was, iceberg right ahead. and the response from the officer was, thank you. >> samuel halpern on the truthss and myths of that night. sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern. part of american history tv this weekend on c-span3. this is c-span3 with politics and public affairs programming throughout the week and every weekend, 48 hours of people and events telling the american story on "american history tv." get our schedules and see past programs at our websites. and you can join in the conversation on social media sites. with congress continuing its
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spring recess, all this week we're showing you american history tv in primetime. tonight, programs focusing on the life and career of richard nixon. first, former new york representative elizabeth holtzman talks about her time on the house judiciary committee when as a freshman in 1974, she heard impeachment hearings against president nixon. held at the nixon presidential library, this is about half an hour. >> let's fast forward to the summer of 1974. spring and summer of '74. do you -- redino hasn't taken account yet, but is it -- are there the votes to impeach nixon? when is it clear -- >> well, it's clear that the overwhelming majority of the democrats favor impeachment, but rodino understood, and i think
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by that time, most of us understood that impeachment was never going to happen unless republicans participated and southern democrats participated, even if we had a majority vote in the committee. that was not going to work. and so there was an effort to structure -- and i was on part of that. there was an effort. rodino participated in a small number and democrats participated in a small number and a few republicans participated in shaping articles of impeachment that could have broad bipartisan support. and i think the southern democrats also participated in that because you had to bring everybody along or as many people as possible. and in the end, ultimately, all the democrats supported this. the articles of impeachment and the first two articles of impeachment, i think. and seven or eight republicans supported it. i think that's the correct number. >> what were the turning points? as the process --
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>> well, the tapes were part of the turning point. the overwhelming weight of the evidence is, i said before, you felt like you were falling into quicksand. i mean, the -- everywhere you turned, there was misconduct. the cover-up was just enormous and never ending and so broad in scope and that wasn't the only thing. then you have the kleindies matter and the enemies list and the misuse of the irs and the illegal wiretapping and the ell stburg break-in. i mean, where did it end? where did it end? you felt there was nothing. so i can't really speak for what was happening in other people's minds, but i think you sort of felt that there was kind of -- from the questions that people were asking during the -- when witnesses testified or during the time the statements of evidence were read to us, you could get a pretty good sense of where people were coming from.
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a and, sure, there were defenders of the president until the last minute on the committee. but they couldn't get every republican. what he needed was a broad group of republicans and the southern democrats. and so they shaped the articles of impeachment. they shaped two articles of impeachment. one was narrowly based kind of focused on what would be. almost an indictment, the obstruction of justice. didn't include the wiretapping, the illegal wiretapping. didn't include the break-in to the psychiatrist's office. didn't include the enemies list. so that was a separate article of impeachment which actually got more republican votes than the first article which was based on the criminal code. didn't actually refer to the criminal code but it was sounded in obstruction of justice, perjury, suborning perjury. the second article of
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impeachment was about the rule of law, really, and the abuse of power. and that included the wiretapping and also included the misuse of government agency s. which, of course, was very serious. and wiretapping, the enemies list, kleindeans, fielding break-in. at least those. i haven't reread those articles recently, so i can't tell you all the nuances of them. >> that's all right. tell us about the day of the vote. >> well, before the vote, the important thing is that the proceedings were televised. the final hearing of the committee where the vote was taken was televised. that was a big debate within the committee. and it was actually -- rodino had not planned to have the proceedings televised at all. he was very worried that people
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would grandstand. but a colleague, one of the new members of the committee from utah was a strong advocate of televising the proceedings. he said this is a way of letting the american people know what our work is and we need their support and have to have their support. how else can we get it. these need to be televised. and there was a big debate in the democratic caucus. and ultimately rodino gave in. i don't know whether it was put to committee vote but there were enough votes to allow the proceedings to be televised. and i think that was really critical because public could see how most of the members were being really sincere in their views and that there was evidence and the process was a fair process. the vote on the first articles of impeachment took place in the evening. after lengthy debate. each one of us, the proceeding was such that each one of us got to make an opening statement.
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and, of course, barbara jordan made a very electric one going back to the origins of the constitution and the fact that she wasn't allowed to be in the constitution. well, none of the woman could be in the constitution. not only blacks, but women were included. in terms of at least the right to vote. but the vote itself took place in, you know, just as all the votes in the committee took place. the roll is read and the vote is read. and the chairman votes last. and when it came to me, i remember feeling -- it was very hard to vote. as much as i disagreed with president nixon's policies, and much as i knew how justifiable a
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yes vote for impeachment was, still it was kind of an awful, solemn feeling to think you had to be sitting in judgment on a president of the united states who committed acts of this gravity and this seriousness and this awfulness. it was a very unpleasant moment. i don't think any member of the committee took any pleasure whatsoever in voting for the impeachment of president nixon. in fact, peter rodino went back to his office and cried after that vote. he chaired and shepherded the committee through this process and it certainly gave him no pleasure. no one ever wanted to see this happen. >> were you surprised that president nixon resigned rather than pressed forward with this case in congress? >> oh, yes. i wasn't exactly sure what he was going to do.
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it was clear by the time the supreme court ruled that -- and all the members of the -- republican members of the house judiciary committee who hadn't supported impeachment before supported it because the supreme court said now you can listen to all the tapes and additional tapes have to be released and those tapes had the quote/unquote smoking gun. it was clear that the impeachment vote in the house of representatives would be overwhelming. maybe five or ten people supporting richard nixon, but not more than that. and the vote in the senate would be overwhelming, too. it was no -- where would the support come from? the evidence was overwhelming. every republican and every democrat on the house judiciary committee said that he should be impeached. this is not something that can be lightly ignored. period. so i didn't exactly know what was going to happen, but, you know, i guess the republican leaders in the house and senate got extremely concerned because there was going -- you had
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elections scheduled for november. this was early august. and if there had been a trial vote in the house of representatives and then a trial in the senate it would have come right up against the november elections. as it was, the republicans lost a huge number of seats. it was called the watergate class in november 1974. but it would have been far, far worse if nixon had stood trial. and during that period of time running up to the election. so i think there was a lot of pressure put on president nixon. i'm assuming that. i don't really know. to resign. and in any case, he knew there was no hope. the impeachment process was going to -- he was going to be removed from office. there's no question about that. no question in anybody's mind that, given the fairness of the
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process, even without the smoking gun tape, you had huge public support for the results of the house judiciary committee. a fair process. process ultimately they could see on television. republicans joining with democrats and substantial numbers. so it wasn't going to be easy to overcome that, but when you had all the republicans then deciding to join democrats it was -- there was no hope that he could beat this. >> where were you the day he resigned? >> i was in washington. i was in my office. i can't exactly remember what was happening, but i remember we all ran to the television and watched his resignation and getting on the plane and the bravado. i mean it was sad, but it was also sad that he really did not acooj i don't think he ever really acknowledged what he'd done to the country and what he'd done that was wrong. >> tell us about the experience of questioning president ford about the pardon.
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>> well, as surprising as the resignation was, the ford pardon really came as a very sad surprise to me. and i was very upset by it because i thought that here we were on the house judiciary committee trying to establish that the rule of law was really the most important thing. and a president couldn't take the law into his own hands. and here we are in early september. that decision had been made in july. president nixon resigned in the face of that. in essence acknowledge iing tha how the congress felt. and then you had president ford issuing a full and fair pardon under highly questionable circumstance
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circumstances. and it was -- the question on everybody's lips was, was there some sort of deal? in other words, that the president was the pardon part of the deal to get president nixon to resign his office, which would have raised serious constitutional questions and might have itself been an impeachable offense. but i discovered to my chagrin that the house judiciary committee had no real interest in investigating this. as soon as the pardon was issued, several members of the house introduced what is known as resolutions of inquiry. those are special privilege resolutions, and you can call for a vote on the house floor. if the committee doesn't act on the resolution of inquiry. and these resolutions called for information about what happened leading up to the pardon. i think one of the authors
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was -- but i can't remember the other. she wasn't the only one. and so i was on the subcommittee to which these articles, these resolutions of inquiry were referred. and my reaction was, we met. democrats met. and i said, well, we should conduct an investigation first. we should request the documents from the white house pertaining to the pardon. we should interview the people who participate in the pardon. you had a young lawyer who -- benton becker who was the go between here, but you also had other members of the president's staff who should have been interviewed. i think it was his press secretary resigned in protest. so that, i thought, was -- normal process. i remember before i entered congress, i had just been
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practicing law at one of the major law firms in new york and major national law firms. so this is what you would do when you started a case. you'd get the documents. you'd interview the witnesses. you'd find out what was going on. and since it seemed so natural and so plausible and so logical to do that, the committee said -- the subcommittee said to me, well, is this a great idea? it's a terrific idea. but never happened. they never asked for one document. they never asked for one witness. and i saw the times going by. i said, what are you doing about this? yes, liz, we're going to do it. they never did it. president ford, understand ing that this was -- realizing from his own staff there was no serious investigation, took the bull by the horns and said i'm going to go and testify to you and tell you exactly what happened. and i again said to him, we should not be hearing from the committee staff and the
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committee chair and the members of the committee. we should not be hearing from the president. we can't ask him intelligent questions unless we've done our homework and gotten the background fd so forth. they weren't going to do it. so the president came. i asked for more time for each one of us to question the president. we did not get any more time to question the president. so nobody asked him any tough questions. everybody was saying how nice it was, mr. president. you've come down to the congress to talk to us and tell us what you think. and i didn't want to have to do this because it's not very nice to ask tough questions of the president of the united states. but i didn't see how i could -- how i could avoid that. i was the low person on the totem poll. i was the last person to ask questions. i was hoping desperately that somebody would ask one of these questions before it got to me. there were four other democrats ahead of me on the committee. nobody -- and not to mention republicans. nobody asked them any tough questions about the pardon.
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and so i had prepared beforehand thinking that this might happen, and so i said -- because i also thought he could filibuster. i didn't want to ask one question and then have my five minutes taken up. i prepared a list of questions and said i'm sure there are others that need to be answered, but would you please answer these. and they included why he hadn't -- why he'd done this in such haste, why he went outside the normal process, why he didn't get a confession from richard nixon that he'd done something wrong. was there a deal. what would the, you know, what were the conversations that had taken place with haig and so forth. so i asked my questions. and president said that emphatically, there was no deal, but i think to this day, the answer is not clear.
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mr. haig has never been questioned under oath about this. a former staff member to richard nixon. a lot of information about secret conversations came out after the testimony. so it's a very unsatisfactory -- very unsatisfactory conclusion because it showed, number one, that the committee wasn't willing to make a proper investigation. number two, that they were basically allowing a double standard of justice to take place. one for the president of the united states and another for everybody else. just months after having reasserted basic constitutional authority and the rule of law which means nobody gets preferential treatment. and the nixon pardon has had ram -- terrible ramifications. we've had other pardons of top-flight government officials who clearly engaged in
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wrongdoing and now -- and were permitted to go free. it happened with president bush i. questions have been raised about whether president bush ii will issue the pardon. and so i think it's just -- it set a very -- it ended the watergate proceedings with kind of a bad taste, at least in my mouth, and i think it established a kind of bad precedent in the future. the high-level government officials can expect a pardon. they'd do something wrong and criminal. >> there has been some talk that the pardon did provide for healing. so you -- >> i think that's nonsense. i think the healing already took place once the committee -- first of all there was no healing. we're grown-ups in this country. people said, ooh we can't
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survive an impeachment. they said that. you can't have impeachment proceedings. the country can't stand it. guess what? we can withstand it, no problem. to the extent there was any division, in my mind, the impeachment process brought the country together because whether you had voted for nixon, whether you were a republican, an independent, a democrat, an unfilliated, you felt that the rule of law had finally been carried out. that congress had acted responsibly. that the other institutions of government had done their job. the supreme court. so the courts had done their job. the prosecutors had done their job. the congress had done its job. so even if the president hadn't, our system of government worked. and i think that -- and people renewed their commitment to the idea that the rule of law was more important than party and than any other single person. that's what came out of it. we rediscovered this about ourselves as a nation. we discovered initially when the constitution was written but we didn't really have a chance to
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rediscover it, and i think we did rediscover it. so i think what happened was we were healed by this process. we reconnected to our commitment to the rule of law. and then you had president ford coming and then shattering that commitment to the rule of law. i don't think there was a healing. i don't agree with that at all. and i think some -- and the interesting thing to me is that initially the judge who is the hero to me in this process said that the pardon was the correct thing to do. then when he wrote his book he said, i was wrong and it wasn't the right thing to do. that it did set a double standard. >> did you talk to any republicans about this? do you recall any conversations with your colleagues, republican colleagues, about this? >> i'm sure we did, but i don't -- >> any of them share your view? >> i don't recall. i just don't recall. listen, there weren't many democrats who shared my views, so i don't know about whether
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republicans would have. >> you mean most of your democratic colleagues thought that the pardon was necessary? >> i don't know if they thought the pardon. they may not have liked the pardon, but they weren't willing to challenge president ford. >> what steps did the -- >> but the pardon was very unpopular with the american people. and that goes to the -- again, the question of healing. americans were angry about the pardon. and president ford paid a huge political price. so i don't see how you can say there was healing when americans remained angry enough to take it out on him in the next election. >> what effect do you think this experience had on the democratic party? >> i don't really -- you know, that's a good question, but i don't really -- i've never really looked at it from that point of view. i've looked tat from point of view of what it's done to the country but never the point of
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view of what it did to the party. >> what did it do for the country? >> well, watergate showed that presidents could abuse their power and that despite the hope that people would obey the law, that presidents of the united stat states, a gross example with regard to president nixon. you also saw that the institutions of government given the chance other institutions could do the right things. and i think the other thing that was really important, maybe the most important was that the american people supported the rule of law and the constitutional process. and that was more important than president nixon's political survival, even though most of them had just voted for him. so i think it showed a wisdom and real political smarts on the part of the american people. >> how important an issue was
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